Competition Entry #12 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70


ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry


The Good Life?
By Apekshita Varshney, 22 years old, Mumbai


 My grandfather and I walked past a mosaic queue outside a Mumbai ATM. I grunted, he smiled, “I met your nani while standing in a queue to make a call,” he revealed.

“All my life, all my life, I’ve spent more time in queues than at home – queues for bank accounts, ration card, even pressure cooker – those days, sarkar had made our lives much tougher than your past few weeks. We were used to it. We didn’t know any better. Your generation does”.

His words made me think: is my impatient generation a match for my grandfather’s quixotic one? After all, his generation was dotted by veils and clerk positions, when women, with the exception of the ones Nehru courted, were collectively chided to fit India’s mask of puritanism. Or is my generation a match for my mother’s, which was shaping hindutva, sharia, and absolving socialism while breathlessly demanding reservations?

You may say that we’ve had it easier than many, yet there are layers to your argument. We do revel in heaps of information that, if our attention span permits, can change the world. But it is this very dumping that has produced unparalleled competition, new-age diseases, and above all, chronic unhappiness.

I perhaps speak for the self-entitled city folk; village life, and what it takes to survive in the hinterland, is beyond my purview. I won’t exhibit my audacity or misplaced philanthropy in showing compassion for a part of India that is not only subtracted from my urban life but is also, in several ways, far more challenging. Not that city life isn’t. Indian cities are monsters: filthy, polluted, unplanned and unmanaged.

Unhinged, my own city of Mumbai, is ruled and ruined by Shiv Sena, which hides its inefficiencies behind rising slums and property rates, shrinking land and Mumbaikars’ activism, and the retracting sea. This is where it centres, the damning politics of India, the cause of our nation’s misery.

Not that we’re silent: between the rising costs, hellish commuting, and unseen civic infrastructure, my generation does find time to vent against a bad policy on Facebook but the grasshoppers that we are, we move to the next celebrity video pretty darn quickly. What would you rather have us do?

This is our character: we are like the famous taxi aggregator, Uber. Everything that Uber required already existed – cabs, drivers, smartphones, internet, app technology, everything. All that Uber did, and this is not taking any credit away from them, was build on certain ideas and use creativity to put together an unmatchable product. That’s what my generation is best at. We rebuild, remodel, refurbish and not necessarily from scratch. We are quick fixers, highly advantaged by two things: the mistakes of our previous generations and the internet.

Yet we haven’t used it to our advantage. While Brazil and Hong Kong are swelling in movements, we haven’t elbowed for any more freedom.

India still discriminates, still reserves seats, still faces extreme poverty and subjugation, and still, over and above all, believes that the government should have more money, more roles, and more power. The youth haven’t learnt, and hence, haven’t spoken. My generation, grown up on the choicest education system, instead engages in idle self-actualisation.

Truth is, only a lucky few from my generation can follow their dreams to become artists and connoisseurs and trace thoughts to their complete ramification, the way Kierkegaard and other philosophers have desired. But many of us won’t be sucked into a lackluster job for a mere pay cheque either, a fact that is down to our traditionally educated, middle-class parents, who grew up in the 70s and 80s, and spent their lives practicing fidelity to organisations that deserved a bulldozer.

We want more for ourselves, so here we are, lulling, struggling, making ends meet, and deciding what India will be for us, and we for India.



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